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Book Chapter

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In discussing animal welfare it is very easy for the discussion to become bogged down by misunderstandings. Commonly the first misunderstanding arises over the definition of animal welfare. In the content of this article we will take it for granted that any definition includes the physical well-being of the animal as well as ensuring that the animal can fulfill much of its genetically controlled behavioral repertoire. The second misunderstanding arises when the political and scientific assessments of the subject are meshed together. In a scientific assessment, the aim should be to examine welfare problems strictly from what we know about the physiology and behavior of the species under consideration. In relation to the humane housing offarm animals, it should aim at informing the public of the pros and cons of different housing systems with respect to the animals' physiology and behavior. From this knowledge the politicians and their electorate can choose which level of welfare they can adopt while protecting their farmers, for example, from cheap imports from countries where the standards of animal welfare are lower. In this article we shall discuss from the ethological viewpoint how the various ways by which housing systems for farm animals can be assessed with respect to the animals' welfare, and how an ethologically suitable system can be attained.